Here at Escort Ireland, we are all for equality. We take any attempts at discrimination very seriously, and we long for the day when people are just managed by the human beings they are, and nothing else. This is why we found this story absolutely fascinating, and possibly slightly worrying.
Ashers bakery in Northern Ireland are facing legal action after refusing to make a ‘Sesame Street cake’ with a slogan that supported gay marriage. The cake actually had characters Bert and Ernie on it, who are reported to be gay (though I always thought they were just mates when I was a kid!)
The General manager of the family run business was adamant he wouldn’t make the cake for the gay rights activist as it went against his Christian beliefs. It now seems the Equality commission are after him, and his business could well be under threat of bankruptcy.
Standing Their Ground
MacArthur is willing to fight this one however, as he doesn’t want to be forced to perform an act that goes against his religion.
“We feel that the Equality Commission are pursuing us because of our beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said.
“It feels like a David and Goliath battle because on one hand we have the Equality Commission who are a public body, they’re funded by taxpayers’ money, they have massive resources at their disposal whereas we are a small family business and we have limited resources at our disposal.
“We don’t want to be forced to promote a cause which is against our biblical beliefs. We’ve had a lot of support from people who disagree with our stance on same-sex marriage. They think that we should have the freedom to decline an order that conflicts with our conscience.”
His decision has been backed by Christian advocacy groups, but has been attacked by civil rights organisations.
A spokesman for the Equality Commission confirmed a letter had been sent to the bakery calling for “modest damages” to be paid to avoid litigation.
“The commission has now received a response from the company’s solicitors stating that their view remains unchanged that their clients have not acted unlawfully, confirming they have no further proposals to make on their clients behalf and that they will accept service of a civil bill in regard to this matter.
“The commission will be issuing a civil bill in this case and a decision as to whether or not discrimination has occurred will be a matter for the court. The commission will not be making further comment on the facts or issues in the case before a court hearing.”
However, it seems that this will be going to court.
Now I have to say, I am really confused by this, and I will tell you why.
The first thing I did was go and read the comments section, and I expected to see loads of messages calling the company homophobes. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Firstly, someone who claimed to be a lawyer did question whether this was a case of discrimination, as there was no refusal of service. They just didn’t want ‘ice the message’. This actually makes sense and has also been voiced by Rev Phillip Campbell, group secretary of the Caleb foundation.
“As is obvious to any fair-minded person, it can be clearly seen from the incident which provoked the commission’s action that Ashers were not refusing to serve a customer because of their perceived sexual orientation, but because they were being asked to ice the cake with words which endorse a specific political position in favour of same-sex marriage.”
He added: “For them to be victimised because of this is patently outrageous, and flies in the face of common sense.
“The Equality Commission ought not to be targeting Ashers in this way. As taxpayers and as Christians, we would urge the commission to drop its threat of legal action.”
Now is gay marriage a human rights issue, or a political debate? I will leave that one up to you, but I can definitely see the Asher’s point of view.
The other issue that the public are jumping on is the question as to whether the gay rights activist could have gone elsewhere to get the cake they want?
Now some people questioned whether the gay couple deliberately went somewhere they would get a negative reaction to the message, either to get compensation or to bring about a legal case that would make a statement for equality. I would never say that is the case, but other people have.
The more level headed ones were however saying that the bakery isn’t likely to be the only one in town. Couldn’t they just go down the road to the next one?
An Interesting Study
Interestingly enough, a Yougov poll says that 65% of people surveyed stated that they didn’t think that the couple should be taken to court. They see to see the incident as different to job discrimination, or negative attitudes in a restaurant.
I have to say; I’m not completely sure about this one. If I was running a bakery and someone came in and asked me to to do a cake saying ‘end immigration now” or ‘make abortion legal’ would I be going against their human rights if I said I didn’t want to do it?
I will be honest, there is a part of me that sees a big difference between discrimination and being forced to bend over backwards for certain groups. Just as being gay is a human right, so to is being a Christian and having Christian beliefs. That may sound strange from a man who works for an organisation that is attacked by the church, but I really mean it! We are all entitled to our beliefs, and no-one should be forcing their own thoughts and actions on other people who may not share them.
So what to you think? Let us know in the comments section below, or in the Escort Ireland forum.
Since then, he has specialised in articles on the battle for equal rights for sex workers, sexual health, as well as bringing the readers fun news from around the world. He also has a major interest in LGBT rights, and is an active campaigner in this field.
When he isn't fighting the good fight, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, and young daughter. He also enjoys reading and taking long walks.